Cultural Events & Festivals of Sri Lanka

As a cultural country filled with customs and tradition, Sri Lanka offers locals and visitors vibrant events for visitors to indulge in. Whether they are religious or customary, each event holds a set of traditions that are required to be carried out.

The following constitutes the events that take place in Sri Lanka throughout the year in chronological order.

January

January is a month of celebration and cheer, as everyone embarks in to the New Year. This month also holds several culture events such as the Duruthu Perehera as well as the Thai Pongal celebrations.

The Duruthu Perehera falls on the first full moon Poya day of the year, and commemorates the the visit by Lord Buddha to the island in the either year following his enlightenment. This procession starts from the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara and is held for three nights.

Thai Pongal is a Hindu celebration of the harvest and honours the Hindu sun God.  The day, which either falls on the 14ht or 15th of January is cultural and also includes many ceremonial preparations such as sweet meats and spiced rice called “Pongal”. Following worship at a Hindu temple, the Hindu folk make there ways back to their homes to carry out the traditions rituals.

February/March

Early February, Sri Lankans embark on carrying out celebrations to commemorate Independence which was received in 1948 following a near five-century colonial rule. Independence Day falls on the 4th of February.  These celebrations are always grand and often include processions happening around the Independence Commemoration Hall or Independence Square.

The Navam Perehera is held on the full moon Poya day in February and celebrates ordain of Lord Buddha’s initial disciples, Sariputta and Maha Moggalana. The celebrations are held at one of Colombo’s most prestigious temples, the Gangaramaya Temple that is nestled close to the Beira Lake.  The procession is not only breathtakingly beautiful which over a hundred decorated elephants, dances from Udarata (up-country) and Pahatharaya (low-country) dances. The celebrations last two days and are the cultural highlights of February.

Another religious and cultural event is Maha Shivarathri Day, which occurs either in late February or early on in March, it commemorates the union of Lord Shiva with the Goddess Parvathi.  Ceremonial prayers and rituals are carried out. Maha Shivarathri Day which is considered an auspicious for women, involve married women praying for the wellbeing of their husbands and sons, whereas spinster pray for husbands who holds the qualities of Shiva, who is also considered the perfect husband.

April

Though westerners consider the New Year to be on the first of January, the Sinhala and Tamil folk believe it to be connected to astrology, thereby when the Sun makes passage from Pisces to Aries; it signifies the onset of the New Year.  The Sinhala and Tamil New Year involve many traditions and customs, which are carried out in a series of events.  Duly clad in new clothes, the lighting of the lamp and milk pot are carried with auspicious times and later involves indulging in delicious sweet meats. Another tradition is the exchange of sweet meats between neighbours, offering unity and warmth.

 

May/June

At the start of the month of May, take in the International Labour Day celebrations as the community takes to the streets in Colombo is a marked as of one of the country’s most political days.

Apart from political events May is a holy day for Buddhists as the Vesak full moon day is a celebration of Buddhism as it commemorates the day, which Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and passed on.  The entire country lights up their houses and streets with bright lanterns and magnificently lit cut-outs whilst recounting Lord Buddha’s journeys and stories. The country is ablaze with the various lantern festivals whilst temples become a hive of activity with the followers flocking to pray on this religious day.

Further into June, the country celebrates Poson full moon Poya day, as the day by which Venerable Mahinda introduced the Buddhism to Sri Lanka. To commemorate this day, celebrations similar to that of Vesak are carried out throughout the country.

July/August

In July, the Esala Full Moon Poya day is celebrated throughout the country in places such as Kandy, Kataragama, Devinuwara, Kotte and Belanwila to commemorate Lord Buddha’s renouncement of worldly indulgences to attain enlightenment with the likes of various forms of Esala Perahera.

Similarly, in August on the Nikini full moon Poya day, Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya (Temple) which is the resting place of one of Lord Buddha’s tooth relics. The Nikini Perahera commemorates the times where the sacred tooth relic was enshrines in the temple.

Furthermore, August is also the time of the Vel Festival, a Hindu celebration by which the trident, the weapon of Hindu war god Skanda is laid into a golden chariot from the Kathiresan Kovil to Kovil in Bambalapitiya or Wellawatte annually.

September

In the month of September, indulge in the classical beauty of motor vehicles as you partake in the annual vintage car rally. Watch as over 125 “Old Crocks” ranging from the earliest MG classic sports cars to the glorious convertibles are seen dazzling the streets of Colombo.

Discover your inner child as you set out to Mount Lavinia Beach and enjoy the sun and breeze at the National Festival of Kites.  An event organised to bring creativity in children and adults, many folks to the beach to enjoy these creations in the sky.

Furthermore, the nine day long Navarathri festival is celebrated by Hindus to commemorate the nine days and nights by which Goddess Dugra fought the Asura. In home and temples like the Veera Pathirakaali Amman Temple in Rajagiriya blessings are invoked.

October/November

A Hindu celebration, Deepavali also known as the Festival of Lights comes alive in late October or early November to celebrate the Goddess of Wealth and Fortune – Goddess Lakshmi’s triumph of good over all evil.  The festival includes Hindu homes lighting lamps and lights to commemorate the beginning of the Hindu financial year.

Another highlight of November would be the annual World Spice Festival, which beckons culinary artistes to the pearl of the Indian Ocean to exhibit their gastronomic skills to their worlds. Chefs from countries like Africa, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia as well as visitors from across the world arrive in Colombo to taste the flavours of the world.

December

December is in any norm considered a time for celebrations, and likewise many celebrations are in store for visitors to Sri Lanka.

In the run up to Christmas and the New Year, the population await with glee for that time of the month. Christmas is celebrated with traditional trappings, religious festivals, concerts and parties all around town.

As the New Year beckons, partake in the many New Year parties at any of the prestigious hotels in Sri Lanka and ensure a good time.

Another religious event would be the Sangamittha Perehera, which falls on Unduvap full moon Poya day and commemorates the day by which Venerable Sangamittha, the daughter of Emperor Ashoka brought a branch of the Sacred Bo Tree to Sri Lanka. The Perehera, which is organised by Handala Rajamaha Viharaya in Handala, is a colourful procession, with elephant parades, dancers and awe-inspiring performances.

 

Events & Festivals in Sri Lanka

 
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